From Ray Bradbury: “Love What YOU Love!”

A thoughtful reader send me a link to a wonderful site, Letters of Note — “correspondence deserving of a wider audience.” In particular, she pointed out a letter that writer Ray Bradbury wrote to a fan.

The line that caught my eye was: “Love what YOU love!” It’s constantly a surprise to me just how challenging this is. Why is it so hard to know ourselves, and to act in accordance with our own interests, temperament, and values? Several of my resolutions, Personal Commandments, and Secrets of Adulthood are meant to help me remember just this: “Just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean that it’s fun for me–and vice versa,” and “I can choose what I do, but I can’t choose what I like to do,” and of course, most important of all, “Be Gretchen.”

In my case, for instance, when I allowed myself to admit my passion for children’s literature, a gigantic new part of my life opened up — with new friends, new projects, and more fun. Not to mention when I made the even bigger change, and switched from being a lawyer to being a writer.

I remind myself of this as a parent, too. Did Ray Bradbury’s parents think his time was well spent collecting Buck Rogers comic strips? Maybe not — but in fact, this was excellent preparation for him. When I see my older daughter spending hours taking photos and short videos of herself, I do find myself thinking, “Shouldn’t she being doing [fill in the blank]? “Wouldn’t this precious free time of childhood be better spent [fill in the blank]?” But I really resist the temptation to tell her to do something else. After all, Elizabeth Craft, my own brilliant sister, once said to me, “I just wish I’d spent more time watching TV as a child.” Because she now writes for TV! And even if my daughter’s activities aren’t preparation for her work as an adult, well, if that’s what she enjoys, then that’s what she enjoys.

This is my mantra, for myself and for my children: Love what YOU love. (And I do love Ray Bradbury.)

How about you? Have you ever struggled to acknowledge what you love? Lost sight of it for a time?

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  • Kathy

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not what an activity looks like from the outside that’s important, but what it feels like on the inside. I’ve always been a person who worried about what other people thought of me and my activities. Since I’ve been trying to “Be Kathy”, I’ve focused more on what feels good to me regardless of what it might look like from the outside. This has become one of my basic truths: It’s not what it looks like from the outside but what it feels like from the inside that’s important.

  • Nicki

    I so agree but sometimes when you are married you have to take an interest in the things your spouse loves. My husband and I have the same values and have been very happily married for 23 years. We get along extremely well but we really do not have many common interests. Some of his friends don’t resonate with me (too much guy stuff) and some of my friends he finds the same. We have mutual friends and we both have a strong desire to see each other happy so we take an interest in each other’s hobbies and interests. I also love children’s literature among a myriad of other things and will often tell him about my current discovery and he loves a huge variety of things as well and will often share his new discoveries with me. I will go to various shows with him that cater to his interests and he does the same for me. I am interested through him get to know about different subjects I otherwise would be clueless about this way. Same with my child. A lot of his interests are not ours but my husband and I embrace them because we love him and want to share his joy.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a very good point. I have a resolution “Enter the interests of other
      people’s lives.” I wrote about it here:

      The key, for me, is to know what MY interests are, and what THEIR interests
      are. It’s great to expand my horizons, but when I deny what’s true about me,
      that’s when I get into trouble.

  • Teamocil

    This post reminds me of my childhood. I always wanted to be a musician, but was frequently told by my parents to get a real job and then maybe I can do it on the side. I struggled a lot with trying to appease them and fulfill my own ambitions until I came down to a make or break time in my late 20’s: do it now while you’re still young enough or you’ll probably never get around to it. Best realization I ever made. I only wish I’d done it ten years earlier. I can only imagine what I could have accomplished starting in my early 20’s instead of my early 30’s.

  • I love Ray Bradbury, a writer who helped shape my wide wide world. Thanks for this.

  • H. Smith

    I can relate to this for sure. My husband I and a couple of his cousins play an online game and I always talk about how dumb it is and how they are dorks and everything…. but I really enjoy playing. We’ve been married 9 years and starting playing when we were dating so it’s been a long time but I’m always embarrassed to admit I enjoy it. Love what you love….sounds very freeing… 🙂

  • I couldn’t wait for the paperback–I read the hard cover. Great book!

    Love what you love–I have written about giving ourselves permission to be happy. This is a very liberating statement. What you love is okay. Love it!

  • And the other side to this coin would be: don’t love what you don’t love. I’ve been trying to love running on and off for YEARS. And you know what? I really, really don’t love running. Especially on the treadmill. So I’m not going to try to love it anymore. How liberating!

    • Val

      Sleep is important for health too. People laugh at me, but I’m not even kidding. Lack of exercise is not my problem–lack of sleep is.

      Take a nap. You’ll be a better person for it.

      We spend so much time fighting our own nature and who made all these rules anyway? Be who you are. As I told a woman not that long ago, “You are a very cool self. Own it.” love, Val

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes! This is a VERY important point. What I’ve realized is that when I admit
      what I DON’T love, then I can look for other things that I do love. So, if
      running won’t be the exercise for you, what would you do instead? Making a
      switch to walking or swimming or yoga might make it possible to be a regular

      • I’ve realized that I don’t really want to do a formal exercise regime…I want to “play”. So I do things that are fun in and of themselves: dancing, hiking, martial arts. Why “work out” when I can “play out”?

        • JanT

          If you’re looking for a fun way to exercise, I’d definitely recommend zumba! It’s a fantastic workout but more importantly it’s so fun, you have a great time and don’t even realise you’re exercising!

  • Hi Gretchen! 🙂

    I love this reminder to love what I love! The last year has been very much about doing just that for me, as I’ve quit a job I didn’t love to build a business that I do love. And even within that business, it’s about finding out what things I LOVE to do, and what things I need to delegate because I don’t love them. 🙂

    I wonder where we got the notion that we *have to* or *should* do everything, whether we love it or not? Or even *especially* if we don’t? There’s this voice in my head that tries to tell me I should just push through and do everything, whether I like it or not.

    I think I’d rather look for ways to do more of what I love and find something else to do with the things I don’t love. 😉

  • I am fascinated by the unique interests that my children have discovered, even when they seemed to have emerged from some undefinable source. I certainly was not responsible for my daughter’s interest in surfing and Brazilian dance or my son’s enthusiasm for fishing,diving ,sports and treasure hunting. As a child from a large, disadvantaged, single parent home, I discovered Art and literature as a means of inspiration. Although these have been lifelong interests, I resisted fully embracing them , influenced by the traditional idea that I’d never find employment in these disciplines or that they were somehow selfish or frivolous endeavors! How ridiculous that seems now. At 38 I became an educator! At 42 I immersed myself in creating art and have been a successfully practicing artist for 5 years. I have never been more inspired or fulfilled. It makes sense that when one follows their heart and does what they love most, they will feel enriched, motivated and “happy.” As a public school educator, I encourage my students and my own children, to be their best selves and to find interests that sustain their spirit. I also discourage criticism of others, however unique they and their interests appear. Different does not mean “bad” or “less”.It is awesome! I no longer pretend at being me and never apologize for that hours that I spend creating art. I feel blessed to finally be discovering what truly inspires me …art,learning,children and beauty. I should have trusted my 5 year old self:)

  • Michael Belfiore

    Bradbury is a national treasure. Thanks for sharing this note from him. To your comments I would add that is great to not only love what you love, but also not to be shy about it. Last week I made a comic book reference at a totally unrelated conference—and made a new friend out of someone who turned out to be a fellow fan!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve found this to be very true as well. Once I started talking about how
      much I loved children’s literature, I found many fellow devotees in my
      social circle — that I’d never known shared my passion.

  • Bradbury is a national treasure. Thanks for sharing this note from him. To your comments I would add that is great to not only love what you love, but also not to be shy about it. Last week I made a comic book reference at a totally unrelated conference—and made a new friend out of someone who turned out to be a fellow fan!

  • I enjoy writing, writing helps make me not be as sad when I am sad. Yet, everyone says that you can’t be successful writing, but not in so many words, they are far more subtle and logical. So motivation is hard and the sad stays.

  • Susan

    Gretchen, I am not sure if you are reading my mind lately or that everything you write now resonates with me! (Lightbulb = on! I am “getting it”!) We have so much trouble loving what we love because of how we react to what other people think. Just as Jude below I finally embraced my love of art and at age 38 became an art teacher and have never been happier from a career perspective. I think often we have to have some “age” before we can be our true selves. I also just recently realized that the things my son is interested in (everything there is to know about movies, playing videogames and watching old tv shows) are not a waste of time as I have been thinking for the last few years, but a valuable part of him, and I need to let him be him! Who knows how he will roll these interests into his adult self? I can’t wait to find out.

  • Gillian

    Very good advice! I learned, maybe in high school, to do this. I LOVE Harry Potter and I LOVE Star Trek. So when I was interviewed by a local paper about Harry Potter and my high school posted it in the lobby, it didn’t bother me. And I have no problem telling people I went to a Star Trek convention, a Harry Potter symposium or worked with a local sci-fi convention for 4 years. I love it all.

  • “Love what YOU love” is a constant battle. I love my dogs… I love chocolate… I love to collage… I love to write… I had to read your book a couple of times to really begin to acknowledge my Loves. But then, once I had, inevitably a new obstacle presented itself: “Okay,”, said the little voice in my head, “but you probably won’t be the best in the world at this. This won’t ever help pay the bills.” … And then I feel like I’m back at Square One!
    But no more! Just over a week ago, I started my very own blog and started writing. And Gretchen… it’s thanks to you.

  • This is beautiful, thank you! I was just thinking about this issue last night. The things I love aren’t the things I’m “supposed” to love. I want to start embracing that instead of apologizing for it.

    I love being alone. I love doing nothing in particular. I love reading and watching bad TV. And I love knitting. It’s easy to internalize the idea that I’m wasting my college years doing these things, but I’m really not, am I? I’m doing what I love and living my life. And if I want to stay home on a Friday night and knit instead of going out drinking like a “normal” college kid, well, in the morning I’ll have a new sweater instead of a hangover.

    Now who’s wasting their time?

    • elizabeth_the_k

      You’re lucky to realize this while you’re still in college, Heather M. When I was in college, I’d often stay home and study/read a novel/watch old movies rather than go out and party, and though I loved it, I let others make me feel bad or nerdy about my choices. I liked going out a bit but I loved these other things more. Good for you!

    • mahsa

      yes,”Things we love aren’t those things we are supposed to love ” but I want to continue this sentence in this way : ” things we love aren’t those things we are supposed to love ” most of the time but not always” “. because if believe this sentence for always ,I think we ignore the meaning of “thinking” +”place of mind in our body”.

  • Yes, I’ve discovered that I love drawing graphs and technical diagrams. Apparently other people don’t, or find it daunting.

    • pck

      HAHAHAH! Yeah, but that’s awesome.

  • LordJiggy

    Ray Bradbury is the real thing. I once wrote him asking for the rights to make a play out of one of his short stories (and I was nobody in the writing business, just another freelancer). He wrote back explaining it was already spoken for, and encouraged me to write my own play.

    A bit piqued, I sent him one of my 1-acts, and in about two week received a wonderful letter from him, containing both praise and encouragement.

    I knew he was a great writer. I didn’t know until then what a fine human being he is.

  • MaGeezy

    Loving what you love regardless of what other people think, say, or feel about it can be both challenging and liberating. I love reading your posts. It keeps me “on track”

  • It is crazy how you are in the midst of a life question and BOOM! here comes an answer. I think alot about life and passion and I have no idea what I love. I don’t know what I am passionate about. I became a mom at 21 and now 10 years later plus three more, I am a mother of four and I have no idea what to do with my life. What do I love? What are my passions? These questions led me to the word, “Apathy”…unable to “feel” paasion or excitement…yes, i got that little jewel by accident after I started wonderng about what I love! I’m so lost.

    • Try asking yourself a different type of question. For example, “when do I feel the most alive?” “When do I feel free?” Take some time to write and reflect. Be patient and listen to what you have to say.

  • actually, although i feel lost, I am probably on the heel of something big. I just don’t like NOT knowing.

  • Vickie

    Being proud to embrace one’s passion should not mean that I have to expact my passion to pay my bills. Barabara Sher, encnourages people to do what they love but don’t quit the day job. Her work is so affirming and encouraging, do check it out.

  • Fishcreekgirl

    I know what I love (living in the country, gardening, fishing), but am afraid to embrace it because my husband does not love these things. If I embrace the 100 acres of farm + farmhouse I grew up in and just inherited, I risk alienating my husband. Trying to find a middle ground, but not sure there is one. Am reading your book (Kindle edition) and looking for advice on how to overcome fear of embracing what you love.

  • Karen

    I did lose sight of the fact that I’ve ALWAYS loved to read, write, and play with words. When our nest emptied, I went on a praying, pondering, full-fledged quest to find what I was supposed to do. Writing floated to the top. I’ve opened the secret garden of my gift and found friends and a way to share my passions with the world.

  • It IS so difficult to remember this at times. There are a lot of people in my community who are interested in very particular things, and even though I’m in my 30s now, I find myself too often doubting why I don’t like these activities, too – just as I did as a child. When I can relax and remember what activities I personally enjoy – and then carve out the time for me to enjoy them, I feel so much better. Thanks for the important reminder today.

  • Wonderful topic! I most definitely agree that loving what you love is vital in life…on two levels. One, acknowledging our passions is an important aspect in connecting with our highest potential. Two, by loving what we love, we are taking the important stance of not letting others run our lives…while keeping it all on the positive.

  • “Love What You Love.” I have never quite phrased it like that, but I like it. Your questions: “Have you ever struggled to acknowledge what you love? Lost sight of it for a time?” resonated with me and the answer is yes. I didn’t so much as struggle to acknowledge as I worked to hide it. l knew I loved reading, writing, listening to music, all of which are very solitary pursuits, so growing up in a family of extraverts, I was constantly at odds with this. As I got older, I wanted to be one of those people who went out 3-5 nights a week, so I did and I hated it. After I turned 30, I realized who am I trying to impress and returned to those things that make me happy, reading, writing, listening to music. And, I’m pleased to say and in being me and loving what I love I have discovered the extravert in me (maybe it is genetic) and now have a wonderful circle of friends, most of whom love the things that I love.

  • Brent

    I lost sight of what I loved years ago and have yet to find it again. Now everything is a struggle because I have lost all signs of enjoyment to be left with tedium, drudgery, and unpleasantness.

  • elizabeth_the_k

    I wish I’d read this when I was a child! I never understood, as a child and teenager, why much of mainstream culture didn’t resonate with me. I felt like a weirdo, when I was in fact just being myself (but letting myself feel bad about being different ’cause I’m often hard on myself ). I’m more comfortable with who I am now but this is a beautiful reminder.

  • I illustrated my favorite part of the text from this here:

  • S_ifat

    thank you. love that post. and i agree, a parent should not interfere with what her child enjoys to do, BUT, let us remember she is still a child and it’s our job to expose her to new things even if at first try she does not like it.
    when my boy was 6 I told him he is going to take piano lesseons eventhough he showed no interset in the piano. I thought it can make his life richer just like reading and writting. for a year, he dragged his legs to every lesson.
     only now he says he enjoys playing, only now he stops in the middle and ask “did you hear that mom? i think that part is so beautiful” and it was.

  • Becky Z.

    I loved this! So many of your posts are such eye openers for me. Also, through so many of your writings and posts I know it is ‘okay’ to ‘Love what YOU Love’ ……

  • Rcbormet

    As for myself, I grew up trying to gain others’ approval, mostly adults, but as I entered the teen years, I also tried to win approval from my peer group. I almost always doubted my abilities. I feared being wrong. I dreaded the possibility of looking like a fool in public. I desperately wanted to be liked and loved. My parents were old enough to be my grandparents and after age 3 I had no siblings at home and few-to-no playmates. It seemed rare to be praised for any idea raised on my own. I felt compulsive about being correct. I blame no one but myself for the lack of courage to be myself.

  • Virginia Munoz

    I’ve always loved romance novels. And now I write them. 🙂

  • CoKat

    No, I have always “loved what I love. However I have been, and still am, persecuted by those who believe they know what’s best. Including my own BF and parents. Funny how when I pursue the things I love, I am far more successful than when I do what I’m “supposed to do”. Financially as well. Not to mention happier with a better social circle and many ideas of new things I’d love to do. I feel sad for those who prefer to let their life slip away marching in tune to what someone else thinks is better for them